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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tired old story for a tired old media 

I really do tire of media-driven advocacy of single-sex education, even within co-educational schools. i.e., the notion that "both girls and boys will flourish in environments tailored to their gender-specific requirements."

First, when I looked into the issue a few years back, I found that 'evidence' (of the sort cited, or rather uncritically promoted, in the Herald story linked to above) is rather ambiguous, with some studies pointing one way, and others, well, the other.

Second, what we're really talking about here is single-gender education (in the sense of gender being a set of social expectations and attitudes built up around biological difference), and don't guys like the visiting Dr Sax just love to jump on crude gender stereotypes:
The areas of the brain associated with language and fine motor skills mature about six years earlier in girls than boys. The areas of the brain associated with maths and geometry mature about four years earlier in boys than girls. This finding may help explain why some girls find maths "hard", he says, while some boys think poetry is for "sissies".

Yes, such Neanderthal attitudes could only stem from biologically-grounded psychological differences ... nothing to do with socially ingrained gender roles and expectations at all. Nothing to see here, move along.

Is anyone else even faintly skeptical of claims such as "Girls learn much better with 3000-kelvin bulbs (warm light) while boys learn much better with 4000-K bulbs (cool light)." In other news, boys like slugs and snails, while girls prefer sugar and spice. It's ingrained, y'know.

3. What about the value of, you know, learning to live and learn side-by-side with people of a different sex and gender? What about the positive aspects of that interaction - both in the short-term, and in terms of being a decent human being?

4. My favourite objection. Why stop at gender? If it is legitimate to divide children on one social and biological axis of difference, why stop there? How about seeing if children do better in "same race" (sic) classrooms. We all know that "Asian kids" are predisposed to be good at maths and classical music. Polynesian kids mature faster, and should be allowed to use their natural physicality on the sports field without fear of crushing skinny whites and Asians. White kids don't need to be held back by Asians and Polynesians whose first language isn't English.

Separate but equal, I say.

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Yes siree, my melting pot of boys and girls would become quite strange if I took half of them out of the class.

Knowing people who teach at all boys schools and all girls schools they aren't a walk in the park by any means.

I enjoy co-ed schools, I would hate to teach at a single sex school. It adds so much more to the classroom. The girls keep the boys in check to a large degree, while girls learn the valuable skill of putting up with smelly males.

We all benefit.

And to be honest, I wouldn't change my teaching based on males or females in front of me because so many of the boys have more in common with girls in class and vice versa in terms of learning styles and behaviour.

Believe it or not sometimes boys (especially seniors) and girls do the unspeakable and sit next to each other and attempt to communicate. Some even have things verging on ... mature relationships [shock horror!!!]
Lies, lies and statistics.

In NZ, most single-sex schools are either private or located in upper socio-economic areas.

Judging their results without taking that into account is just lazy.
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